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Crossing the Thin Blue Line

Thin Blue Line Flag

We’ve all seen them. Flags with a blue line meant to show support for law enforcement. But what happens when the line is crossed? What happens when members of law enforcement break the law?

(Listen to the podcast)

As protests continue around the nation, there are still instances of law enforcement crossing that blue line; most notably when protestors were forcibly pushed back and gassed so Donald Trump could have his photo op, that was crossing the blue line.

When police from Buffalo, NY were videoed shoving a 75 year-old man to the ground, then walking past as he lay bleeding, that crossed the blue line. Two officers have been charged with assault, yet members of his unit resigned en mass in support of the charged officers.

When Atlanta police officers used a taser to subdue and drag someone out of their car because officers thought one of them was armed, that crossed the blue line. The victim later said he refused police orders to get out of his car because he feared for his life.

Even as the nation mourns the death of George Floyd, there are still numerous examples of members of law enforcement using excessive force, particularly on minorities. Videos of people being beaten, of injuries caused by “non-lethal weapons” and even a black reporter being arrested as he was reporting live, are all the stark reality that many minorities face when confronted by law enforcement -- whether they have done anything wrong or not.

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest this treatment, he was vilified, and even blackballed by the NFL. Donald Trump referred to Kaepernick and those who supported him as “that son of a bitch...”, using the racism of the thin blue line to push his own disgusting beliefs.

Trump targeted Kaepernick on Twitter, pushing the divisive position that kneeling was disrespecting the flag rather than an honest protest of police brutality. This position was, until recently, supported by the NFL, as owners feared they too could be singled out for supporting the players.

And yet, Trump did not issue a single tweet about Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged now with Second Degree murder in relation to the death of George Floyd.

Similarly, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finally admitted he was wrong in not supporting players, but he avoided mentioning Kaepernick in his admission. So, while he acknowledged past wrongs, he fails to correct the one major issue, which is why Kaepernick took a knee in the first place.

There are still many issues that need to be addressed in confronting the thin blue line. While this does not represent the entire make-up of the law enforcement community -- in fact, many have been taking a knee along with the protestors -- it is a large enough portion that can infect the total make-up of a police department.

Unfortunately, the lead comes from the top and until there is administration, and a Congress, that supports systematic reform of the police force, there will be more wrongful deaths…and more protests.

Fortunately, Democrats in the House of Representatives today released new legislation, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which would ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants, among other steps. The bill was drafted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. How will House Republicans and those who control the Senate respond?

Law and Disorder

Meanwhile, Trump has declared himself the president of “law and order." He said during the 2016 campaign, when, at the same time, he was telling his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors who were heckling his campaign speech. He also encouraged police not to “be so nice” to suspects who were under arrest, suggesting they should be shoved forcefully into a police car, rather than guided so as not to injure themselves.

And he said it, during a phone call to governors, when he stated they should dominate those protesting the death, at the hands of law enforcement, of George Floyd. He repeated it as, in a further display of his “law and order” attitude, his Attorney General ordered peaceful protestors to be forcibly pushed back so Trump could have a photo op after it was reported that he'd been taken to the White House underground bunker as protestors chanted outside the White House.

Make no mistake, Trump’s version of “law and order” has nothing to do with what is good for the country. Like everything else, it’s what benefits Trump and, by extension, his base. It’s all about appealing to a select group that he hopes will help him maintain his hold on power.

And Yet…

  • He refuses to release his tax returns so we can have an accurate picture of his financial holdings.

  • He claims mail-in ballots would result in widespread voter fraud, despite zero evidence and the fact he and members of his cabinet have used mail in ballots for years.

  • He refuses to acknowledge Congressionally mandated oversight to investigate potentially illegal activities by himself and members of his administration.

  • He refuses to divest himself of his business holdings, or put them in a blind trust, but instead violates the Emoluments Clause if the Constitution by using his multiple properties and charging taxpayers exorbitant prices for this.

  • He claims “nobody has ever done”more for African-Americans despite having rampant unemployment, the Coronavirus death rate being three times as high as that for white Americans and refusing to acknowledge systematic racism among law enforcement .

  • He threatened to violate the Insurrection Act and the Posse Comitatus Act by ordering 10,000 US troops deployed on the streets of America in reaction to peaceful protests.

The bottom line is there is no “law and order” in this administration. Instead there is blatant hypocrisy. His claims of being for “law and order” are more akin to an episode of The Three Stooges…except no one is laughing as he repeatedly crosses that thin blue line.

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